CCNA Service Provider Certification

Cisco Certified Network Associate - Service Provider (CCNA SP) focuses on the latest in Service Provider industry core networking technologies and trends, and validates the ability to configure and implement baseline Cisco Service Provider Next-Generation networks. This certification is aimed at those looking to deploy, maintain and improve carrier-grade network infrastructures. Note that this certification no longer has any prerequisites, however there is a notable lack of learning materials outside those on Cisco's site or training courses and therefore this certification could prove difficult for some candidates. While CCNA R&S is no longer a prerequisite the knowledge gained from such certification is somewhat similar, relating to IOS, to that required for this certification and as such you may want to consider taking the certifications simultaneously or utilising some learning materials from that certification path.

The Certification process

In order to obtain CCNA SP certification candidates are required to pass two exams, these exams are arranged separately from any training courses offered, further information on these exams can be seen by clicking on the titles.

Note that this certification requires re-certification every three years, this can be done by performing any of the following:

Preparing for the Exams

The SPNGN1 exam lasts 90 minutes with between 65 and 75 questions, there is no single area of focus, but some attention is given to Cisco operating systems in addition to IPv4 and IPv6 addressing. The SPNGN2 exam also lasts 90 minutes with the same number of questions, this exam has a large focus on operating systems along with network technologies and IP NGN architecture. Further details can be seen on the individual exam pages. We would recommend erring on the side of over preparation so as to ensure a mark high enough to provide a pass.

For more information on Cisco exam policies in general, take a look at this page.

Training Courses

GBdirect offer the Cisco approved courses aimed to provide the skills and knowledge required to earn this certification. The courses offered are:

While these courses will help prepare you for the exams they may not provide you with everything you need to pass them. To ensure this we would recommend hands on experience with the products concerned, along with additional reading from Cisco certification texts. It is advisable to look up the content of the exam, while performing practice labs and taking advantage of the practice exams available on the Cisco website should also prove beneficial. We welcome any reviews of your Cisco Certification experience, if you feel that you know of an improved learning method then please don't hesitate to get in touch.

Official Cisco Materials

Cisco provides some online materials, some of which is available through the certification pages themselves. An excellent starting point is to look at the exam content available on the exam page as well as a PDF that provides the exam guidelines.

The full syllabus for CCNA Service Provider can be found here.

Cisco also hosts forums in the form of Study Groups, allowing for the discussion of any areas within the CCNA Service Provider certification. This is naturally very useful for finding information on specific areas, but also for finding overviews of certification as a whole. It may be worthwhile looking at some areas of the CCNA study group where some elements of overlap are present.

Full lists of official Cisco learning materials are available under the headings of each exam found on the side of this page. Due to the relative lack of other learning sources such as books, blogs, videos etc. it is recommended that these materials form a significant part of your studies along with an instructor led course. There are also some practice questions available under the practice tab.


Note that those unfamiliar with specific Cisco Routing and Switching topics may want to look at some books aimed at those taking either CCENT or CCNA R&S for some background knowledge.

Some texts are available for those studying for this certification:

Cisco IOS-XR Fundamentals This book receives generally good reviews as both a reference for those working with IOS-XR and a learning tool for those encountering it for the first time. This book is praised with containing a great deal of detail, coupled with excellent examples and real life situations. As such this book is likely a valuable study aid for those unfamiliar with the IOS-XR elements of the certification.

Additional Resources

The forum is one of the most active covering Cisco and other certifications, there is a great deal of detailed information related to either specific technical details or the certification as a whole. As with all other resources for this certification it is worth looking at sections on CCNA and other related technologies due to the overlap with other certifications.

CBT Nuggets have recently published a series of instructional videos for the SPNGN1 exam, lasting approximately 14 and a half hours. These videos can prove a valuable study aid when combined with other materials and or instructed courses, receiving generally excellent reviews.

What if I fail?

Don't panic. You will be able to see and your test result and the areas you felt weakest in, focus on content areas where your performance was weakest and areas with a high percentage of questions. Once you feel ready you can reschedule your exam. Cisco's exam retake policy is listed below:

The policies for retaking exams are as follows:

Excellent, you've passed

Upon passing you will receive a score report complete with your photo; this can be used to share with employers or other third parties. This will also grant you access to the Cisco Certifications Tracking System, allowing you to see certification progress, access logos for valid certifications, allow third parties/employers to see your certifications and to sign any necessary agreements.

Next Steps

Obtaining CCNA Service Provider allows for progression to CCNP Service Provider, a significantly higher level of professional certification that will build further upon the skills needed by those delivering carrier-grade infrastructure solutions. For a more detailed view of Cisco's certification see their certification map.

CCNA, Salary and Contract Rates

A recent survey of IT jobs offered across the UK reported the following statistics on the average earning of salaried and contract workers holding CCNA certification. The UK average salary for a CCNA is £38,500, with the average salary for London being £42,500. A breakdown of this shows 90% are offered a salary of more than £27,000 while 10% are offered more than £57,500.

Contractor daily rates were also surveyed and the UK average was found to be £310 per day and £350 per day for the city of London. The further breakdown of these figures shows that 90% are offered a daily rate in excess of £189 while 10% are offered more than £450. Further details can be found on the IT Jobs Watch site.